Tablighi jamaat
Tablighi jamaat
Litigation News

Observation that arrest of Tablighi members was "indirect warning to Indian Muslims" beyond scope of case: Justice MG Sewlikar of Bombay HC

Justice Sewlikar, however, concurred with Justice Nalawade's conclusion that the FIRs registered in the matter ought to be quashed.

Meera Emmanuel

A judgment concerning FIRs registered against 35 persons for their participation in the Nizamuddin Markaz amid the COVID-19 pandemic recently saw two Judges of the Bombay High Court differ in their reasoning to some extent on why the FIRs ought to be set aside.

Justice TV Nalawade had made strong observations slamming the Government over the episode, remarking that the FIRs and arrests were an indirect warning to Indian Muslims in the backdrop of Anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protests.

At the time of pronouncing the judgment, Justice MG Sewlikar had expressed that he does not agree with Justice Nalawade's reasoning to some extent, on which count he would issue a separate judgment.

Accordingly, Justice Sewlikar has now authored a separate judgment dated August 27, which intimates his disagreement with the observations in paragraph 35 of Justice Nalawade's judgment.

Paragraph 35 of Justice Nalawade's judgment reads,

"There were protests by taking processions holding Dharana at many places in India from atleast from prior to January 2020. Most of the persons participated in protest were Muslims. It is their contention that Citizenship Amendment Act 2019 is discriminatory against the Muslims. They believe that Indian Citizenship will not be granted to Muslim refugees and migrants. They were protesting against National Registration of Citizenship (NRC). There were protests on large scale not only in Delhi but in the most of the States in India. It can be said that due to the present action taken fear was created in the minds of those Muslims. This action indirectly gave warning to Indian Muslims that action in any form and for any thing can be taken against Muslims. It was indicated that even for keeping contact with Muslims of other countries action will be taken against them. Thus there is smell of malice to the action taken against these foreigners and Muslim for their alleged activities. The circumstances like malice is important consideration when relief is claimed of quashing of F.I.R. and the case itself.”

However, Justice Sewlikar has opined that there wasn't sufficient material before the Court for it to make these observations. In this regard, Justice Sewlikar's judgment states,

"I find it difficult to concur with these observations as allegations in this respect are not made in the petitions nor there is any evidence in this regard. Therefore in my opinion these observations are outside the scope of the petitions."
Justice MG Sewlikar

However, insofar as the merit of the petitions seeking to quash the FIR are concerned, Justice Sewlikar agreed that the petitions ought to be allowed.

He has reiterated that there is nothing on record to show when the petitioners were infected with COVID-19 when they arrived in India or to show that visa conditions were violated by the foreign attendees.

"The statements of the witnesses recorded during the investigation do not show that the foreign nationals were propagating religion. Continuation of prosecution against the petitioners in these circumstances would be an abuse of process of Court", Justice Sewlikar added, while ruling that the FIRs and charge sheets under challenge should be quashed.

Read Justice MG Sewlikar's judgment:

Justice MG Sewlikar's judgment - Bombay HC.pdf
Bar and Bench - Indian Legal news